MY Health-e-Schools Telemedicine Program
October 24, 2013
Dear Cutting Edge readers:
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Established by Dr. Steve North, founder and president of the Center for Rural Health Innovation and a WCMS member, MY Health-e-Schools Telemedicine program provides acute/chronic care to 14 schools throughout Mitchell and Yancey counties. Launched in September of 2011, this innovative program sees all patients regardless of ability to pay. The technology is based on high-definition videoconferencing using specially equipped stethoscopes and cameras so that a centrally located health care provider can examine students at multiple schools without traveling. It is the first community- based, school -based program of its kind (not supported by a large agency).
MY Health-e-Schools allows school nurses to connect students with health care providers. The program collaborates with local primary care physicians to provide many services, including addressing acute issues such as the common ear ache or stomach ache, chronic disease management, medication management, well-child check-ups, sports physicals, adolescent medicine consultations, and telepsychology / telebehavioral health. By seeing sick children earlier, MY Health-e-Schools has been able to reduce ER utilization in Mitchell and Yancey counties. School-based health centers have been shown to improve attendance and reduce barriers to learning. Once enrolled in the program children remain in it through high-school.
Before becoming a physician, Dr. North was an 8th grade special ed teacher through Teach for America and developed a strong interest in how health impacted students’ ability to learn. The idea for MY Health-e-Schools was relatively new in 1994; however, now there are 2,100 school based health centers nationally. “Schools can’t have a full time practitioner”, said Dr. North. “School-based medicine takes the idea of comprehensive medicine in school and creates a diffused model for kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access.”
One of the key lessons Dr. North learned along the way was that there is no growth curve or timeframe for introducing a new program into the community and it takes time to build trust. “Some parents just don’t use the program and finding a full time provider was a challenge” says Dr. North. “The same challenges that face rural medicine faced this program as well. It was established through their needs assessment that it was important for families to meet the provider face to face. Relationship building is key.”
Dr. North pointed out that as we move more toward care teams and tracking accountability, his program can partner with the local healthcare community and improve health impacts. “We don’t know how bundled payments will work with the program as we are not a primary care provider.” Dr. North states that more people will have insurance and if the number of providers does not increase there will be a shortage and the potential for more chronic care vs. preventative care is high.
The Center for Rural Health Innovation can provide consulting services to other communities interested in implementing similar programs (up to 10 hours free of charge). Please contact their office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 828-467-8815 for more details.